What Does a Digital Painter Do? Where Do Digital Painters Work? ACR Takes a Look.
|American Academy of Art||Chicago||Illinois|
|Bowling Green State University||Bowling Green||Ohio|
|Columbia College Chicago||Chicago||Illinois|
|DigiPen Institute of Technology||Redmond||Washington|
|OCAD University||Toronto||Ontario, Canada|
|Oklahoma Christian University||Oklahoma City||Oklahoma|
|Montclair State University||Montclair||New Jersey|
|Pace University||New York||New York|
|Pratt Institute||Brooklyn||New York|
|Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah||Georgia|
|University of Denver||Denver||Colorado|
|University of Northwestern St. Paul||St. Paul||Minnesota|
|University of West Florida||Pensacola||Florida|
|Utah Valley University||Orem||Utah|
What Does a Digital Painter Do?
Digital painters work with 2D drawn animation, 2D computer animation, and 3D digital computer animation. They add color to images created by animators and work as part of a team consisting of compositors, color key artists, scanners, and color stylists. The entire team works under the direction of the head of digital color and compositing.
Digital painters receive drawings from the animation or other related department. They use computer software to clean up line work, if needed, and then add color using software programs such as Photoshop, Toon Boom, Illustrator, Animo, and/or Opus Creator. Digital painters have a keen eye for color and detail. These fine artists also understand the animation process, which helps them deliver spectacular images.
Where Do Digital Painters Work?
Digital painters work for animation studios, film and video production companies, in the game design and development industry, and in advertising. They may also find work in unique areas such as medical animation, comic book art, legal animation, and architectural modeling.
What is the Job Outlook for Digital Painters?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment for fine artists as a single group. This includes illustrators, painters, and sculptors. Employment for this group is expected to grow 6% for the 2016-2026 decade, which is as fast as average for all occupations. This will add 3,100 positions to the current (salaried) workforce of around 53,400 artists. Digital painters working in the animation industry will enjoy employment growth thanks to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television.
The BLS reports that consumers will continue to demand more realistic video games, movie and television special effects, and three-dimensional movies. This will create demand for newer computer hardware, which will enhance the complexity of animation and visual effects. Additional digital painters and animators will be required to meet this increased demand. Job growth in other potential industries for digital painters is as follows:
- Software Development (games), 24%, much faster than average for all occupations
- Web Development, 15%, much faster than average for all occupations
- Film and Video, 13%, faster than average for all occupations for the 2016-2026 decade
- Advertising, 10%, faster than average for all occupations
- Animation, 8%, fast as average for all occupations
- Graphic Design, 4%, slower than average for all occupations
- Interior Design, 4%, slower than average for all occupations
- Architecture, 4%, slower than average for all occupations
The demand for digital painters with extensive experience with the latest industry software programs will have the most opportunities, regardless of industry. Further, individuals living in states with the highest employment levels for fine artists will have access to better opportunities. The states with the highest employment levels are California, New York, Florida, Ohio, and Texas.
Other Schools to Consider:
- Atlanta, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Lacoste, France; and SCAD eLearning
How Much Do Digital Painters Make?
The median annual wage for fine artists is $48,960. The lowest 10% earn less than $22,020, and the highest 10% earn more than $101,400. For digital painters working in the animation industry, note that multimedia artists and animators average $72,520. The lowest 10% earn less than $40,870, and the highest 10% earn more than $124,310. Digital painters working in the animation industry can expect their salaries to fall somewhere salaries for between fine artists and animators.
In addition to industry, salaries for fine artists such as digital painters will vary based on geographic location, type and size of company, and many other factors. For example, the highest paying states for fine artists are:
- Connecticut - $80,010
- California - $76,230
- Oklahoma - $65,140
- New Jersey - $62,840
- Arizona - $62,200
Some of the lowest paying states are Arkansas ($24,510), South Carolina ($28,070), Montana ($31,150), New Mexico ($35,110), and Missouri ($39,430).
The top paying industries for fine artists are:
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services - $88,100
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services - $86,700
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing - $81,630
- Motion Picture and Video Industries - $80,320
- and Related Services - $72,250
Salaries for the top five industries with the highest levels of employment for fine artists are:
- Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers - $52,200
- Motion Picture and Video Industries – 80,320
- Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers - $46,780
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $57,890
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers - Not Reported
How Do I Become a Digital Painter?
In the competitive world of art and design a bachelor’s degree or higher is always valued by top employers. Common degree paths for aspiring digital painters include animation, fine art, painting, drawing, illustration, and industrial design. While many top employers prefer a bachelor’s degree or higher, some will accept an associate degree for exceptionally talented candidates. In addition to a degree, employers prefer several years’ experience in the industry. Experience obtained through an internship or other support position is acceptable.
Technical skills are considered an asset in this industry as well. To stand out from the crowd, aspiring digital painters must have well above average experience with the latest digital painting software. Photoshop, Toon Boom, Illustrator, Animo, and Opus Creator are just a few.
What are Some Top Programs for Aspiring Digital Painters?
- American Academy of Art, BFA Digital Illustration
- Bowling Green State University, BA or BFA in Art with a Digital Arts Specialization with a Focus in Imaging (digital photography, digital painting, collage, and hybrid media), Computer Animation & Video, or Interactive Multimedia
- Columbia College Chicago, BA, BFA Illustration (drawing, painting, cartooning, typography, digital illustration, figure drawing)
- DigiPen Institute of Technology, MFA Digital Arts (digital painting, digital sculpting, character design)
- Lewis University, BA Illustration (traditional and digital illustration)
- OCAD University, BFA Digital Painting and Expanded Animation
- Oklahoma Christian University, BFA Graphic Design (heavy digital painting and digital design coursework)
- Montclair State University, BFA Animation/Illustration
- Pace University, BA Art with Digital Media, (Animation, Illustration, Graphic Design, Web Design, 3D Design)
- Pratt Institute, BFA Digital Arts
- Savannah College of Art and Design, BA, BFA, MA, MFA Illustration with a Minor in Illustration for Entertainment or Animated Illustration and Publication Design, BFA, MA, MFA Animation or Industrial Design
- University of Denver, BA, BFA, MFA Emergent Digital Practices
- University of Northwestern St. Paul, BS Animation & Illustration (digital illustration)
- University of West Florida, BFA Digital Art
- Utah Valley University, BFA Art and Design – Illustration Emphasis
Awesome Animation Fact: The Little Mermaid was the last Disney animated film to use the time-consuming process of hand-painted cels and analog camera and film work. 1,100 backgrounds featured 1,000 different colors and over one million drawings were done in all. –Smatterist